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Talking Politics: Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing

There is a growing housing supply crisis in Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis. This impacts the entire range of housing options from low-income rental units to high end luxury waterfront homes and everything in between.  Basic economics tells us that a shortage of supply will drive up demand which in turn drives up costs.  The housing shortage is causing many employees to live greater distances from their place of employment to find affordable housing.  The increases commute time puts more strain on already over capacity roads.  In addition, the high price of work force housing and other “for sale” housing is creating financial difficulties across the board.

The housing shortage has a greater impact on certain industry sectors, particularly those that employ lower and middle wage employee such as the hospitality, restaurant and health care industries. We do not just have a supply and demand problem for affordable housing.  The increased cost of construction materials, rising interest rates, slow government approval process combined with excessive development fees and a fair amount of “not in my back yard” attitude on the part of the existing residents have all added to the increased costs.  Many new projects take years to get basic approvals resulting in additional legal fees and ongoing “carry cost” of the project.  We all know that time is money so these delays are costly particularly when combined with a slow and uncertain building inspection system with the City and County.

What is needed is a comprehensive housing plan that takes into consideration all the different type of housing that is needed and analyzes all the cost drivers that are collectively creating the housing shortage.  There have been individual pieces of legislation to help increase the supply in the City and County. But this piecemeal approach will only provide “feel good” political moments for elected officials while the real problems continue to exist. The City of Annapolis looked at relaxing certain regulation to allow addition density and provide regulation to support Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU).  The County Council is also debating ADU legislation which could help provide some additional supply. The ADU initiative is a small step in a much larger process to address the pending affordable housing crisis.

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